In a land where travelers almost regularly encounter exceptional natural beauty, Geiranger stands out in Norway as a name that has almost turned into an icon. It all comes down to the fjord that bears the same name as the town: the Geirangerfjord. It has been referred to as the most beautiful fjord in the world, with the combination of the majestic landscape and the inaccessible, vertical mountainsides that end in the deep green water.
A number of waterfalls along the mountainsides add to the special atmosphere here. The most famous ones are The Seven Sisters (De syv søstre) – a name reflecting that these waterfalls can be likened to the hair of seven women when viewed from a distance.
As you journey along the characteristically S-shaped fjord on board a cruise ship, you will also be able to spot magnificent, snow capped mountains and old farms clinging to the mountainsides. One should perhaps not be surprised that visitors from all over the world place the Geirangerfjord high on their lists of must-see destinations.
But as you visit this fjord in Norway’s southwest, you will encounter not only foreign travellers but also a fair number of Norwegians. The Geirangerfjord is a popular destination also for vacationing Norsemen. That fact was reflected in a list of 49 domestic must-see destinations published by the Norwegian travel magazine Reiser & Ferie a couple of years ago. The Geirangerfjord came in first on that list, ranking higher than a well-known destination such as Bergen, and higher than Oslo’s renowned Vigelandsparken.
The fjord’s uniqueness has also been recognised by UNESCO, which has included it on the World Heritage List. The publication National Geographic Traveler added further weight to the fjord’s status as a world-class destination when rating it as the best cared for UNESCO World Heritage Site. That status could be under threat, if recent talk of building power lines across the fjord were realised.
The town of Geiranger is situated at the end of the 9.3 miles/15 kilometers long fjord, which has been visited by cruise ships since 1869. Counting some 250 inhabitants, Geiranger is one of Norway’s top destinations for tourism – thanks to the fjord.
Geiranger features two cruise quays, both suitable for smaller ships not longer than 328 feet/100 metres. Larger ships anchor in the fjord, disembarking passengers enjoying a short tender ashore. Tourist information and taxis are available quayside.
The majority of the attractions in the Geiranger area are related to nature in one way or another. Depending on interest and physical condition, there are several alternatives to experience the region.
One of the most easily accessible ways to get to know the town of Geiranger and the fjord is to go for a walk. From the town, follow the south side of the fjord to the small town of Homlong. On arrival, you will find a café with home made food on the menu. The distance from Geiranger to Homlong is some 1.5 miles/2.5 kilometers, giving you time to draw in the landscape.
For the more advanced hiker, the area offers a wide range of alternatives. If you’re into mountaineering, there are mountaintops waiting to be explored. If you consider the views to be more important than the possibility to exert yourself, there are several viewing points worth visiting. Two alternatives are Dalsnibba and Flydalsjuvet, both offering excellent views of the scenery provided by the fjord. Reaching these viewing points, both high above the water level, requires transportation.
Another great vantage point is the Westerås Farm, some 2.5 miles/4 kilometers from central Geiranger. This is also a good starting point for a walk in the mountains. You will find a restaurant on the premises.
If the possibility for a good catch is as important as the views, there are several ways to experience the local lakes and rivers – and the fjord itself – on a fishing trip. The area features five salmon rivers: Strandaelva; Valldøla; Edisdalselva; Korsbrekkelva (in nearby Hellesylt); and Storelva (in Norddal). The salmon rivers require fishing permits, as do the lakes in the nearby mountains (where trout and grayling can be caught). Visit the Tourist Information Office for advice on how to acquire a fishing permit. Fishing in the fjord is free.
For an interesting perspective on this area of Norway, a trip on the Trollstigen (the Troll Path) mountain road is commendable.
At the Herdalssetra Mountain Farm, see how goat milk is used in the production of cheese. With several hundred goats, Herdalssetra is one of Norway’s largest mountain summer farms. Other animals include cows, sheep and fjord horses. Herdalssetra is situated close to Norddal, some 25 miles/40 kilometers from Geiranger.
At Fjordsenteret (the Fjord Center) in Geiranger, learn more about the region and its inhabitants over the years.
The octagonal Geiranger Church was built in 1842, replacing a church from the 18th century that burned down. It is estimated that Trondheim has had a church of its own since 1450.
A range of shore excursions can be on offer in and around Geiranger. Examples include:
- Tours of Geiranger can include both the local church and the Fjordsenteret (mentioned above, under Do Not Miss).
- Some tours will put focus on viewpoints such as the Flydalsjuvet and/or Dalsnibba.
- The Herdalssetra Mountain Farm can be the goal for some excursions, also taking in features such as the so-called Eagle Road and waterfalls along the way.
- The Storsæter Waterfall can be experienced on an excursion to the Westerås Farm (see above under Do Not Miss).
- An excursion with a so-called RIB boat will provide passengers with a different perspective on the fjord and its surroundings.
- For a more peaceful experience, try sea kayaking on the fjord.
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Ålesund is the closest main town from Geiranger, some 68 miles/110 kilometers away. The distance to Oslo, Norway’s capital, is about 267 miles/430 kilometers.
Geirangerfjord is a 15-kilometer-long branch of Storfjord (Great Fjord). Geirangerfjord, along with Norway’s Naerøyfjord, enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status; however, there is talk of building power lines across Geirangerfjord, which could threaten the fjord’s UNESCO status.
The fjord is also under threat of the mountain Akerneset, which is in danger of collapse, an event that scientists say will create a tsunami as tall as 40 meters (more than 130 feet), posing danger to the towns of Geiranger at the end or the fjort and Hellsylt.
An avid traveler and an award-winning journalist, Ralph Grizzle produces articles, video and photos that are inspiring and informative, personal and passionate. A journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ralph has specialized in travel writing for more than two decades. To read more cruise and port reviews by Ralph Grizzle, visit his website at www.avidcruiser.com